Yoshihide Ito sometimes makes ¥40,000 a day selling organic vegetables from the tailgate of his vehicle in a space he rents in front of a beauty parlor when it isn’t open for business.
“Won’t you have some rare organic vegetables?” he calls out from the corner of a street lined with fashionable restaurants in Meguro Ward, Tokyo.
His vehicle was laden with about 40 different kinds of vegetables, including purple carrots, arugula and Brussels sprouts, all grown free of chemical fertilizers.
Ito capitalized on the Nokisaki.com website set up by Tokyo-based Nokisaki Co., a firm that acts as an intermediary for landowners looking to rent vacant “nokisaki” (edge of the eaves) spaces at relatively low cost and tenants wishing to lease such areas by the hour, day or week. Unlike regular property leasing, the contracts concern only the right to use nokisaki spaces.
Nokisaki.com has grown increasingly popular since its launch in April 2008, indicating rising interest in the use of such small, open spaces.
The locations include squares in front of office buildings in business districts, spots around stores that are unused outside business hours, and even parking spots at people’s homes that would otherwise be left vacant.
The number of contracts concluded on Nokisaki.com totals about 350 a month in the Tokyo and Osaka areas.
For Ito, a director of Sunny Products Inc. based in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, the fee to use the Tokyo beauty parlor’s front space for three hours at dusk — a busy time when people hunt for dinner — is ¥2,850. By targeting housewives in their 30s and 40s in the relatively wealthy district, on a good day Ito can make more than 10 times the rental fee.
He said the money spent on the vehicle and rent are the only costs involved in his street vending operation, which makes it more economical than starting up and running a store. The spaces thus make it convenient for street vendors such as himself to move on to another place if a rented spot proves unprofitable.
Nokisaki Co. questions its customers in advance to collect data on the type of places they wish to rent and the uses they envision for them.
Nokisaki, led by President Akiko Nishiura, manages the operation and receives a portion of the rent paid as commission.
The firm’s clients vary widely. While street vendors sell “bento” (boxed lunches), vegetables and fresh fish, others are corporations organizing promotional events, homeowners looking to sell accessories, farmers seeking to set up satellite shops for such niche products as specialty rice, and even artists holding one-man shows. Nokisaki has also rented space to fortunetellers on occasion.
Landowners with open space also find the website useful. One firm in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, recruited street vendors to sell bento in its vacant lot because there’s a lack of places to eat in the neighborhood. The employees found the service convenient and the company created a new revenue stream from the rent it charges the bento sellers.